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Single Servings: A Stain on Boston, Part I

20/08/2009

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A Stain on Boston, Part I

By Ad Hamilton

When people who’ve lived in Boston talk to each other, their reminiscences are often wildly variable, depending on when they lived there.  A mentor of mine lived in Somerville in the 1980’s, and has a memory of this city I can’t believe.  It sounds like paradise.  This is because I lived there during the Big Dig, the federal highway project which temporarily re-routed, demolished, then restored, several miles of superhighway through the city.  The Dig affected every aspect of the city, constricting traffic miles away by remote influence, and in my opinion infused the city with a powerful, unfocused daily rage.  A predisposition toward hate.  This is the first of a series of stories about the eruptions of anger, difficulty and pain I witnessed.

Smoking outside a university building in Cambridge. Yes, that one. Squeal and crunch of taillight lexan in the intersection. I see this Irish drywall contractor, about five-four, no more than a buck fifty, leap out of his F-250, diesel still running, radio still on “Back in Black” at 95 dB. He’s sprinting over the drivers’ side door of the Accord that cut him off. It’s funny, until I see he’s got a crowbar. Does he keep it on the seat beside him, with his Camel lights? The tiny Irishman’s heading for the fifty year old Asian woman in the drivers’ seat, of the Accord, either to murder her (shit, got to intervene) or else to reverse-pimp her Honda (OK to watch, wait for cops).
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The Irish Gypsum King decides to intimidate this woman, but she’s not giving him anything. He screams, shakes, waves the crowbar. She just sits there, a regal example of the power of emptiness. She looks at this violent maniac the way you look at your thousandth Bombay street kid. It’s as though she just noticed the colonial church behind him and she’s studying it through his invisible body. It turns into that Bukowski parking-lot poem, except the lady doesn’t pull a piece on him. She pursues her strategy of doing nothing at all. Absolute absence.
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Why doesn’t he smash her window? Because she’s wordlessly  convinced this man that the eighth of an inch of safety glass between them is pope-mobile impregnable, and she sits behind it like a bank teller, like a Bodhisattva, like a Burger King employee pointing to the closed sign at 12:01 am.
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“Whatever,” she says without saying. Mind control, is all I can figure.
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Hysterical details begin to pile up, like the quartet of literally tweeded professors crossing Quincy Street, Abbey Road style, who realize they’ve actually taken a left on to Crowbar Alley.  The Comparative Religion Department scatters.
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At the one-solid-minute-of-screaming mark, Crowbar flips his lid. Absolutely loses it. Can’t handle looking into the abyss of this woman? Just remembered his iffy immigration status?  Realized he has warrants, and that someone’s definitely called the cops by now? Who knows. He strides up to the front quarter panel of the Accord and puts a Sammy Sosa swing into the left headlight, doing his best to catch the drivers’ eye at the moment of contact. The crowbar bounces off. The lens has got to be cracked, sure, but there’s no satisfying pop as with a glass headlamp. He hustles back to his truck and peels out to seriously screw up his next job.
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Ice Empress watches, moving only her eyes, in the rear-view, then looks left, right and left again, as if she’s an exemplar from a drivers’ ed video. She calmly puts the Honda in gear and eases back out into traffic. Nobody believes this part, but I swear that she shot an almost imperceptible smile as she left, a kind of “picked the right tollbooth” self-satisfaction. I saw it, it was not directed at me. It was for my Korean friend, standing to my left. Tae Wook translated for me: “White people, what you gonna do?”
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Ad Hamilton
-Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
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Trained as an architect and urban planner, the author is a Charlotte-based developer of golf, equestrian, and active-senior communities.

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“A Stain on Boston, Part I,” is the first in a series of posts in Ad Hamilton’s “Single Servings” Project at The Owls site.
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One comment

  1. […] Read “A Stain on Boston, Part I.” […]



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